December 6, 1995 in Nation/World

Nato A Force To Be Reckoned With Humanitarian Groups Hope To Exploit Yet Avoid Giant Military Coalition

Mark Fritz Associated Press
 

It’s happening again. A big Western army is descending on a mortally wounded nation and into the middle of a fragile web of wary relief agencies.

As they did in Somalia, Rwanda and Haiti, humanitarian groups are bracing for the impact of the 60,000-member NATO force on the Bosnian landscape. To them, such armies rattle a double-edged saber.

Many expect the NATO force to change the dynamics of a very complex place - from fragile relationships forged with the combatants to the movement of refugees across the rugged, snowy landscape.

The biggest fear is that 80,000 Bosnian Serbs estimated to be living on the fringes of Sarajevo will flee en masse when those territories are turned over to the Muslim-Croat federation under terms of the Dayton peace pact.

The Red Cross is earmarking emergency aid to cope with the possibility that tens of thousands of Bosnian Serbs will trek across the brutally cold mountain passes ringing Sarajevo, said agency spokesman Beat Schweizer.

Some relief workers fear privately that the Bosnian Serb leaders will use women and children to block the U.S.-led force from enforcing the accord in the suburbs, a tactic employed previously against U.N. peacekeepers.

There also are worries that a pocket of 55,000 Bosnian Muslims in the town of Gorazde, a brutalized enclave surrounded by Serb territory, will flee to Sarajevo along a corridor to be opened under terms of the accord.

Gregory Roath, a spokesman for Catholic Relief Services, noted that NATO air strikes on Serb positions earlier this year allowed relief groups to get badly needed supplies to Gorazde. But he said the peace pact creates a different and much poorer route to the city, and he said he was worried that the Serbs would now close the good road.

Humanitarian agencies, which have had less access to Serb-held areas, are trying to expand their presence in those areas in advance of the troop deployment.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is opening an office in the Serb suburb of Ilidza this week purely to open dialogue. Catholic Relief Services has one worker, a Serb, in Ilidza, but Roath said the worker is uncertain whether she herself will flee when NATO arrives.

So while attention is fixed on how U.S. military planners will carry out perhaps the trickiest intervention of the post-Cold War era, humanitarian agencies are trying to find a way to work around and with the massive military machine about to swoop down on the country.

What the relief groups want is access to the superior communications, logistics and intelligence capabilities of NATO, without the often disastrously muddled attempts at help that the present U.N. force provided.

“We’d like them to assist but not impede,” said Stephen O’Malley, head of a Doctors Without Borders operation in Sarajevo.

Unlike the U.N. Protection Force it replaces, NATO will not mix humanitarian work with military work - dueling goals that more often than not confused the U.N. mission.

In Bosnia, nobody knows yet what effect a foreign force will have.

“It’s going to change quite a bit,” UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said of the relief effort in the country. “It’s too early to say what’s going to happen.”

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: DEVELOPMENTS Bush, Ford support mission With most Americans opposed to sending troops to Bosnia, President Clinton won important backing Tuesday from former Republican Presidents George Bush and Gerald Ford for the risky U.S. military mission. But even as the White House welcomed the presidential endorsements, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole delayed a vote on a resolution supporting the deployment until next week.

NATO ministers back plan In the most ambitious military operation in NATO history, the alliance’s foreign and defense ministers backed a plan Tuesday for sending 60,000 troops to Bosnia to enforce a fragile peace. Fourteen outside nations said they would join the peacekeeping mission in the shattered former Yugoslav republic. And France, reversing a 29-year boycott, rejoined NATO’s military wing. NATO’s annual winter meeting was marked by exceptional unity. One order of business was the confirmation of Spanish Foreign Minister Javier Solana as the alliance’s secretary-general. His appointment fills a six-week leadership vacuum created when Willy Claes resigned over allegations of corruption dating to his days as a Belgian government minister in the 1980s.

Trickle of advance troops grows Preparations for NATO peacemaking in Bosnia gained momentum Tuesday, with medics streaming in from Germany and office supplies arriving from Italy. Logistics and communications troops trickled toward Sarajevo, nearby Kiseljak, the northern city of Tuzla and the Croatian port of Split. NATO wants a 2,600-member advance team in place for the Dec. 14 signing of the peace accord negotiated in Dayton, Ohio. They will pave the way for about 60,000 NATO soldiers, a third of them Americans, being sent to Bosnia to enforce the Balkan peace.

U.S. mission on the Internet The Pentagon is offering a new way for the public to monitor U.S. participation in Bosnia. It has created an Internet site, called BosniaLINK (http://www.dtic.dla.mil/ bosnia/), on the World Wide Web. The Web site contains operation maps, fact sheets, briefing transcripts, speeches and congressional testimony, news releases and biographies of key commanders. - Compiled from wire reports

This sidebar appeared with the story: DEVELOPMENTS Bush, Ford support mission With most Americans opposed to sending troops to Bosnia, President Clinton won important backing Tuesday from former Republican Presidents George Bush and Gerald Ford for the risky U.S. military mission. But even as the White House welcomed the presidential endorsements, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole delayed a vote on a resolution supporting the deployment until next week.

NATO ministers back plan In the most ambitious military operation in NATO history, the alliance’s foreign and defense ministers backed a plan Tuesday for sending 60,000 troops to Bosnia to enforce a fragile peace. Fourteen outside nations said they would join the peacekeeping mission in the shattered former Yugoslav republic. And France, reversing a 29-year boycott, rejoined NATO’s military wing. NATO’s annual winter meeting was marked by exceptional unity. One order of business was the confirmation of Spanish Foreign Minister Javier Solana as the alliance’s secretary-general. His appointment fills a six-week leadership vacuum created when Willy Claes resigned over allegations of corruption dating to his days as a Belgian government minister in the 1980s.

Trickle of advance troops grows Preparations for NATO peacemaking in Bosnia gained momentum Tuesday, with medics streaming in from Germany and office supplies arriving from Italy. Logistics and communications troops trickled toward Sarajevo, nearby Kiseljak, the northern city of Tuzla and the Croatian port of Split. NATO wants a 2,600-member advance team in place for the Dec. 14 signing of the peace accord negotiated in Dayton, Ohio. They will pave the way for about 60,000 NATO soldiers, a third of them Americans, being sent to Bosnia to enforce the Balkan peace.

U.S. mission on the Internet The Pentagon is offering a new way for the public to monitor U.S. participation in Bosnia. It has created an Internet site, called BosniaLINK (http://www.dtic.dla.mil/ bosnia/), on the World Wide Web. The Web site contains operation maps, fact sheets, briefing transcripts, speeches and congressional testimony, news releases and biographies of key commanders. - Compiled from wire reports


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